For most people, the beginning of a new relationship is kind of magical. Maybe there was a rom-com worthy IRL meet-cute, or maybe it was a more modern drunk-Tinder-swipe gone very, very right. Either way, getting to know someone you’re attracted to and see a future with is a beautiful thing. But because there are so many “feel good” vibes present and you’re possibly still in the honeymoon phase, the important conversation topics can get overlooked.
Other times these topics do come up but are only briefly discussed so as to not pop the pretty pink bubble. We might find ourselves intentionally ignoring certain “heavy” subjects that might become potential deal-breakers when we’re just not fully ready to let go of the person we love and our newfound happiness.
But deal-breaker or no deal-breaker, there are some *really* important conversations that you should have, especially within the first year of dating.
To learn more about these important conversations, we reached out to relationship expert Alysha Jeney. Jeney is a 30-year-old relationship coach based in Denver, CO, and the founder of The Modern Love Box — a subscription box meant to inspire the modern relationship.
And here are seven conversation topics you should discuss with your partner within the first year of dating, according to Jeney.
Family may play a huge role in your life and when getting into a relationship, it may be difficult to balance the roles of being someone’s partner, in addition to someone’s brother, daughter, etc. Or you may have a lot of familial baggage and triggers from past ruptures. Either way, it’s important to discuss what your family means to you and the roles that they may or may not play in your life. If you have had past issues with family, it’s important to share with your partner by a year into your relationship, so your partner can respect and understand your sensitivities.
Money represents a lot for us in our culture. It’s extremely difficult to talk about and we can often get extremely defensive when trying to discuss it. Money can emotionally symbolize success, value and personal worth, (so no wonder it’s difficult to admit you have $10,000 in credit card debt). You don’t want to come across weak, irresponsible and/or undervalued, so you may find yourselves skipping over the nitty-gritty to avoid the perceived judgments.
It’s important to understand each other’s money management, as well as each other’s expectations for shared expenses and future planning. You don’t need to share each other’s bank statements, but after a year of dating, it would be ideal to discuss yearly income and individual debt. It’s also important to discuss ways in which you can support each other’s lifestyle financially as a couple.
This conversation will likely include whether or not you already have children, if you want children and how many, and what an “ideal” family life looks like to you.
There is room here to fluctuate and change your minds. Life happens, but it is good to discuss the future and the potential desire to want to grow your family. It’s important to talk about your fears and excitements around wanting (or not wanting) children. How you ideally see your “family life,” even if that means you only envision having two cats. It may also be goof to discuss adoption to identify where the two of you stand on different approaches.
4Your Definition of Commitment
It may seem silly to do this, as two people who have agreed to be in a relationship are clearly committed, right? However, you may be surprised when you fast forward to 1.5 years of dating and one person expects a proposal, while the other one feels fully committed (and content) with just dating.
One person may feel the ultimate level of commitment is changing their Facebook status, while the other may not feel they are committed until their are legal documents involved. It’s important to address how you view commitment and what it means to you. Discuss whether or not particular stages such as living together, engagement, and marriage are important to you and why.
5Sex and Physical Affection
Do not assume that your partner shows physical affection in the same way you do. Every BODY is different and sex in a relationship is extremely complex at times. Within a year of the relationship, most couples do not report having a high concern with sex because their relationship is still fairly new.
However, it may be important to talk about expectations around sex as your relationship grows. A good question to ask is, “What does your ideal sex life look like in a long term relationship?” or “Do you think one of us initiates sex more than the other? Are you comfortable with this?” Talk about ways you feel connected to each other and how physical touch may play a role in that.
A lot of couples say initially, “we are just going with the flow,” then six months later are upset and concerned that they feel out of synch. Talk about the things that are important to you and the things you’re personally working towards so that you know both parties are on the same page. Your partner needs to understand what you are working towards so they can support you, not resent you!
Many couples don’t discuss their idea of balance and shared roles in the partnership until they are arguing about not feeling “supported.” They assume the other person has the same idea of balance/expectations and with these assumptions, conflict and hurt feelings tend to arise. It’s important that you talk about how you envision an equal partnership, or what that even means to you. Do you have a more “traditional” view of who takes care of what? Are you in a same-sex partnership where the “traditional” standards aren’t as defined? Talk about it!
Relationships are beautiful and difficult and can get a little complicated. But having the hard conversations early on will definitely help keep you and yours on the right track. If you only hold on to one thing from this article, let it be: “Ask why!” Because understanding the reason behind someone’s decision or viewpoint could make a world of difference.